Nick McDonell at Harvard Book Store


Quiet Street:
On American Privilege

in conversation with MATTHIEU AIKINS


September 25, 2023
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes NICK MCDONELL—best-selling author and journalist—for a discussion of his new book Quiet Street: On American Privilege. He will be joined in conversation by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, MATTHIEU AIKINS.

About Quiet Street

Nick McDonell grew up on New York City’s Upper East Side, a neighborhood defined by its wealth and influence. As a child, McDonell enjoyed everything that rarefied world entailed—sailing lessons in the Hamptons, school galas at the Met, and holiday trips on private jets. But as an adult, he left it behind to become a foreign correspondent in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Quiet Street, McDonell returns to the sidewalks of his youth, exhuming with bracing honesty his upbringing and those of his affluent peers. From Galápagos Island cruises and Tanzanian safaris to steely handshakes and schoolyard microaggressions to fox-hunting rituals and the courtship rites of sexually precocious tweens, McDonell examines the rearing of the ruling class in scalpel-sharp detail, documenting how wealth and power are hoarded, encoded, and passed down from one generation to the next. What’s more, he demonstrates how outsiders—the poor, the nonwhite, the suburban—are kept out.

Searing and precise yet ultimately full of compassion, Quiet Street examines the problem of America’s one percent, whose vision of a more just world never materializes. Who are these people? How do they cling to power? What would it take for them to share it? Quiet Street looks for answers in a universal experience: coming to terms with the culture that made you.

Praise for Quiet Street

"Quiet Street is an exquisitely rendered horror story about American inequity, and how it mindlessly, immorally, reproduces itself. Unlike most such stories, however, this one left me believing in the possibility (and necessity) of drastic change. Nick McDonell writes with a scalpel in one hand, and in the other, a bushel of grace." —Maggie Nelson, author of On Freedom

“Friendships with Upper East Side elites, attendance at prestigious schools like Buckley, Harvard, and Oxford, and travel to exotic locations . . . as McDonell illuminates a rarified world of money, power, and connections, he also offers candidly sobering insight into the systemic cultural mechanisms designed to protect long-standing social inequalities. An eloquent and compelling study.” —Kirkus Reviews

Mask Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Matthieu Aikins
Matthieu Aikins

Matthieu Aikins

Matthieu Aikins is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author who has reported from Afghanistan and the Middle East since 2008. He is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a Puffin Fellow at Type Media Center. His first book, The Naked Don’t Fear the Water, about an undercover journey to Europe with Afghan refugees, was published by Harper and Fitzcarraldo Editions in February, and has been translated into nine languages. Aikins received the 2022 Pulitzer for international reporting as part of a New York Times team that investigated civilian casualties from US airstrikes. He has also received the National Magazine, Polk, and Livingston awards. He is a past fellow at New America, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the American Academy in Berlin, and his work has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper's, and the anthology The Best American Magazine Writing.

Photo credit: Kiana Hayeri

Nick McDonell
Nick McDonell

Nick McDonell

Nick McDonell is the best-selling author of Twelve, The Council of Animals, and several other publications. He is also known for his journalism on wartime Afghanistan, Iraq, and Nepal, with work published in TIME, The New Yorker, and the London Review of Books. McDonnell studied at Harvard and St. Antony’s College, Oxford and is from New York City.

Photo credit: Roopa Gogineni

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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